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Employee Engagement Begins With Trust!

Last week I wrote about the need to include Employees in the decision making process if Employee Engagement was a goal. This week I read an article about this year’s WorkTrends Report by the Kenexa Research Institute.  According to this Report, based on an international survey, Employees are engaged by:

Last week I wrote about the need to include Employees in the decision making process if Employee Engagement was a goal. This week I read an article about this year’s WorkTrends Report by the Kenexa Research Institute.  According to this Report, based on an international survey, Employees are engaged by:

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• Leaders who inspire confidence in the future.
• Managers who respect and appreciate their employees.
• Exciting work that employees know how to do.
• Employers who display a genuine responsibility to employees and communities.     

This is more of the same vagueness with which most companies approach Employee Engagement.  The reality is Employee Engagement begins with one item:  Trust!  My focus on Trust as the basis for Employee Engagement rests solidly on the last forty years of the instability caused by the WorkQuake© of the Knowledge Economy.          

First, consider that The Industrial Economy Workplace – the Workplace of the Boomers – was all about promises.  Promises were made by Employers to Employees about lifetime job security, increasing wages, cost free health care and a secure retirement plan.  In return, Employees made promises to Employers of long term loyalty and daily servitude.      

The Boomers entered the workplace with an understanding of that Social Contract: leave the brain at home, show up for work, perform adequately while doing a boring job, accept a Command & Control work environment and tolerate Theory X supervisors and managers, all for the promise of The Good Life and a retirement where Boomers could begin to do what they really wanted with their lives.  While this Social Contract stifled industrial innovation and creativity and caused employees to die at an early age out of the frustration of knowing they had spent a life doing mind numbing, repetitive tasks it still provided security to an entire generation of Employees and guaranteed Employers a workforce that, while not committed to the company, showed up everyday and did the job.  But make no mistake, the Boomers Commitment to the job did not and does not mean they were/are Engaged by the job.       

Now consider that The Workplace of the Knowledge Economy is all about broken promises.  The Social Contract of the Industrial Economy is gone, shattered by the The WorkQuake© of the Knowledge Economy. Generation Y is entering the workforce is fully aware there is no more Social Contract.  The promise of employment stability rings hollow to the Gen Yers who have seen their parents laid off from multiple jobs because of globalization, who have seen the promises of improving health care dissipate as ever increasing health care costs have been passed along to their parents and who have seen the promise of their parent’s secure retirement dissipate with the elimination of defined benefit pension plans and retirement based on the vagaries of the stock market’s effect on 401(K)s and IRAs.       

Is it any wonder Gen Y-ers enter the workplace with an attitude about work that is so markedly different from the Boomers? And is it any wonder Boomers are disillusioned with Employers?  Today no one in the workplace Trusts the Company to take care of their needs!  And until there is a regeneration of Trust between Employees and the Employer there will be no Employee Engagement that results in that all important discretionary effort from Employees.  Instead Employees of every generation will continue to ask W.I.I.I.F.M.? every time they are asked to go above and beyond and if there is no satisfactory answer to that question there will be no Employee Engagement.  And without Employee Engagement the Workforce will not delivers superior results, higher quality and improved customer satisfaction, better revenue growth, and increased profitability.

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The Bottom Line: Trust occurs when Company Leaders
1.    Do what they are expected to do;
2.    Do what they say they are going to do;
3.    Recognize and reward effort; and
4.    Involve Employees in the decision making process on any and every item that directly affects the Employees.  

Until every Company Leader, from the Executive Office to the Front Line, commits to developing this level of Trust don’t expect Employee Engagement.